Welcome to The Conversation: Why Ashfield ditched tribal voting to turn blue

  • Video report and words by ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman

“Can I have my usual please?”

It’s a question Mehmet, behind his café counter, hears a lot. When it comes to their Full English, people know what they like… and what they don’t.

For generations, politics in Ashfield was much the same story. Preferences were rituals.

This was a brick in Labour’s ‘Red Wall’.

Sitting at the heart of the old Nottinghamshire coalfield, it had never before returned a Conservative at a general election.

Last night voters broke the habit of a lifetime.

Dan said he couldn't vote Corbyn as he doesn't relate to him. Credit: ITV News

“I couldn’t vote for Labour this time because of Jeremy Corbyn,” Dan tells me over his fry-up.

“I just can’t relate to him at all.”

Sitting opposite him is his wife, Jode. Both come from what they call ‘Labour households’. Both followed the family tradition in their first few elections. But attitudes have altered and loyalties have loosened.

“People’s feelings have changed over the years with how Labour have handled things,” says Jode. “The party’s not what I remember from being a child and growing up with it.”

As the pits closed, warehouses opened. Jobs are less secure, no longer for life, and don’t carry a union banner.

“Young people are different now,” one older diner tells me. “They care more about themselves as individuals.”

Voters in Ashfield decided to back Boris Johnson at the General Election. Credit: PA

Perhaps it explains the willingness to switch directly from Labour to the Conservatives. But there is a ‘B’ word that comes up even more than Brexit: ‘Boris’.

I’m told many people here didn’t vote for the Conservatives in this election; they voted for Boris.

That personal popularity now brings high expectations, and a sense the Tories owe their victory to places like this.

“It’s only up-north that’s saved Boris’s skin,” says John, who backed an independent candidate.

“I hope that he remembers that when he starts to put all his things into practice.”

Boris Johnson’s success in seats like Ashfield didn’t come as a surprise last night, either to those living here or to me, having spent the last five weeks talking to voters in places like Whitehaven, Telford and Peterborough.

But their support has been given reluctantly. Despite nine years of austerity, they want to ‘Get Brexit Done’ and they didn’t like the alternatives.

Whether the prime minister can change people’s political tastes more permanently will depend on his ability to deliver the change they crave, beyond Brexit.